Dog’s Movie House: “Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings” An Awesome Marvel Martial Arts Film!

“Shang-Chi” tells the tale of the title character (played by star-in-the-making Simu Liu) who is living in San Francisco under the name Shaun and works as a valet parking cars with best friend Kate (Awkwafina). The past catches up with him when a group of thugs steal an amulet given to him by his mother. Turns out Shaun is the estranged son of Wenwu, also known as The Mandarin and the nearly immortal leader of the Ten Rings criminal organization. The rings are also a mystical weapon Wenwu uses to enforce his rule. Shang-Tsi must not only reunite with his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) but also confront his father about his past and that involves dealing with the trauma of his mother’s death and defeating an ancient evil that could consume the entire world.

I know that sounds like a lot to unpack, but writers Dave Callaham and Destin Daniel Cretton (who also directed) manage to keep a smooth reign on the script so that it never feels overstuffed despite the liberal use of the flashback sequence. Creton the director keeps things moving nicely, building anticipation for the truly marvelous action set pieces and keeping the audience invested in the characters in between the action scenes.

Liu is wonderful here as Shang-Chi, a man gifted with great abilities who is fighting the ghosts of his past as well as his uncertain future. He shines in the dramatic scenes with his father and his aunt (the always wonderful Michelle Yeoh). Tony Leung adds a great deal of nuance as Wenwu, giving him depth not usually seen in comic book villains. His arc is almost as compelling as Shang-Chi’s and it makes for an interesting dynamic. Liu also has great chemistry with Awkwafina as you belive they’ve been lifelong friends from the very first scene in which they appear together. (Is it weird I want to suddenly karaoke to “Hotel California?”) Awkwafina also lends her character more than just comic relief and it’s nice to see her get an arc of her own.

All of these things work remarkably well, but “Shang-Chi” really shines in the action department. Cretton and his fight choreographers really work to make the martial arts in this film stand out. Liu and Leung are excellent onscreen and of course Michelle Yeoh is a legend. There are several notable fight scenes including the opening clash between Shang-Chi and a group of thugs on a bus and another clash at a high-rise in Macau. While there is plenty of CGI (especially during the finale) the grounded nature of the action really separates this film from other superhero films. (The closest I can think of is “Captain America: Winter Soldier.”)

Of course, this being a Marvel film, there are cameos from famous characters and two post-credits scenes, on of which hints at another piece of a larger story. The film is dedicated to legendary fight choreographer and stuntman Brad Allen, who’s work with legends like Jackie Chan is clearly felt in the choreography for “Shang-Chi” it’s a touching tribute that comes at the end of the credits (which of course folks sit through to see the new scenes). Overall, “Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings” is a fantastic martial arts film and superhero all in one colorful, well-acted, well-scripted package. See it on the big screen and let your inner ten-year-old soar. 4 1/2 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!

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